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Famous for its stunning Islamic architecture and beautiful gardens, the Alhambra is what draws most visitors to Granada, Spain.

Climbing the towers of the Alcazaba, strolling through the manicured gardens at Generalife, and seeing the elaborate archways and the geometric patterns of tiles in the Nasrid Palaces top the list of things to do in the Alhambra.

In this guide, we will be your virtual tour guide. We cover everything you need to know to visit the Alhambra, including the top things to see, the best time of day to plan your visit, a sample itinerary, and whether or not it is worth it to take a tour.

 

#1 Tip for Visiting the Alhambra

Before we go deeper into how to visit the Alhambra, the most important thing to know is that tickets are limited and typically sell out in advance. Without a ticket, there is very little you can see and do at the Alhambra.

If you wait to purchase tickets onsite at the Alhambra, there is a very good chance they will be sold out for the day.

For the best experience, purchase your tickets online in advance from the official website as soon as possible. If tickets are sold out, then you can purchase them through GetYourGuide. We cover ticket options in more detail later in this guide.

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Interesting Facts about the Alhambra

The Alhambra is a complex of buildings and gardens located in Granada, Spain. For a full list of things to see and do in Granada, plus recommendations on where to stay and where to dine with a view of the Alhambra, read our article How to Visit Granada.

It is known as being one of the best-preserved palaces of the historic Islamic world. The Alhambra is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most popular tourist attractions in Europe.

The first buildings date back to the 9th century. The complex of palaces was started in 1238 by the first Nasrid ruler, Muhammad I Ibn al-Ahmar and it took several hundred years to be completed.

In 1492, after the Reconquista, the Alhambra became the Royal Court of Ferdinand and Isabella. This is where Christopher Columbus received his endorsement to voyage across the Atlantic Ocean.

Later, the Alhambra was abandoned and fell into disrepair. It was “rediscovered” in the early 1800’s, when Granada was occupied by Napolean’s army. In 1828, restoration work began. A few years later, Washington Irving lived in Granada and wrote Tales of the Alhambra, which attracted more visitors to this place.

Now it is one of Spain’s most visited attractions.

Patio de Los Leones at the Alhambra | How to visit the Alhambra

Court of the Lions

Maps & Layout of the Alhambra

The Alhambra is a complex of buildings that sits on a hilltop in Granada. It is roughly 26 acres in size. Because of its location and size, you will walk quite a bit on a visit to the Alhambra.

The Alcazaba (the fortress) is the oldest part of the Alhambra complex. It dates back to the 9th century and was the original residence, until the Nasrid Palaces were completed several hundred years later.

The Nasrid Palaces are the Alhambra’s most famous attraction. Both the Palace of the Lions and Comares Palace make up this small complex of buildings. This is the spot to see the rooms covered with colorful geometric patterns of tiles and delicate archways and patios.

Generalife was the summer palace. It is surrounded by some of the most beautiful gardens in Granada. A visit here is not to be missed as you get a breathtaking view of the Nasrid Palaces and the Alcazaba, with the backdrop of the city of Granada.

Below is a map showing the location of the main buildings and places to visit in the Alhambra. The blue signs indicate the most important sites to visit in the Alhambra.

Alhambra Map | How to visit the Alhambra

 

Below is an interactive map that also includes the top things to do in the Alhambra, which you can save to your Google Maps.

How to Use This Map: Click the icons on the map to get more information about each point of interest. Click the star next to the title of the map to add this map to your Google Maps account. To view it on your phone or computer, open Google Maps, click the menu button, go to “Your Places,” click Maps, and you will see this map on your list.

Entrances into the Alhambra

There are two entrances into the Alhambra.

Puerta de la Justicia

Puerta de la Justicia is very close to the Alcazaba and Nasrid Palaces. If you are walking up to the Alhambra from town, most likely this will be your entrance point.

Your ticket will not be scanned at this entrance. Tickets are scanned when you enter ticketed sites, such as the Alcazaba, Nasrid Palaces, and Generalife. Without a ticket, you can walk around and see parts of the Alhambra complex of buildings.

Access Pavilion of the Alhambra

There is a second entrance at the Access Pavilion of the Alhambra. This is located near Generalife. If you drive and park at the Alhambra, this will be your entrance. This is also a popular meeting point if you are taking a tour of the Alhambra.

At this entrance your ticket will be scanned, as this is also an access point into Generalife.

Things to Do at the Alhambra

Puerta de la Justicia

This is one of the main entrance gates into the Alhambra. If you are walking to the Alhambra from Granada’s city center, you will pass through this gate.

Puerta de la Justicia | How to visit the Alhambra

Puerta de la Justicia

Puerta del Vino

This gate is located between the Alcazaba and Palacio de Carlos V.

Puerta del Vino | How to visit the Alhambra

Puerta del Vino

The Alcazaba

The Alcazaba is the fortress and the oldest section of the Alhambra.

A visit here lasts anywhere from 20 to 40 minutes, depending on how quickly you move through it. A ticket to the Alhambra includes the Alcazaba. To enter, show your passport, which is linked to your ticket.

Alcazaba Alhambra

The Alcazaba

On a visit the Alcazaba, you will make a loop through the fortress. Here are the things you will see:

First, climb a set of steps to the viewpoint on Torre del Homenaje that has a great view of the fortress, Nasrid palaces, and Granada.

Alhambra View from Alcazaba

The view from the first tower of the Alcazaba

 

View from Alcazaba | How to visit the Alhambra

The view of Granada from the first tower of the Alcazaba

Keep following the walking route through the open-air museum and then climb Torre de Armas. From here you get a great view from the fortress.

Torre de Armas View

The view from Torre de Armas

The views keep getting better. Next, climb the steps to the top of Torre de La Vela, the tallest tower of the Alcazaba. From here, enjoy the breathtaking 360° view.

Torre de la Vela | How to visit the Alhambra

Torre de la Vela

 Torre de la Vela View of Granada

The view from Torre de la Vela. Below you can see Torre de Armas.

 

Alhambra Alcazaba

One more view from Torre de la Vela

To exit, follow signs to Jardin de los Adarves, which leads to the exit.

Nasrid Palaces

The Nasrid Palaces are the #1 attraction in the Alhambra. To enter the Nasrid Palaces, you will book a timed entry slot. This helps keep crowds relatively low all day long.

A visit to the Nasrid Palaces takes about 45 minutes to an hour and a half.

On display is 13th century Islamic architecture, with curved archways, delicate tilework, water fountains, vaulted ceilings, and honeycombed decorations.

Top things to see include the Court of the Lions (Patio de Los Leones), the Court of Myrtles (Patio de los Arrayanes) at Comares Palace, and the Hall of the Abencerrajes.

Court of Myrtles | How to visit the Alhambra

Court of the Myrtles at Comares Palace

 

Court of the Lions Alhambra Granada | How to visit the Alhambra

Court of the Lions

 Court of the Lions Hallway

Court of the Lions

 

Hall of the Abencerrajes | How to visit the Alhambra

Hall of the Abencerrajes

 Alhambra Archways and Carvings

Archways at the Court of the Lions

 

Alhambra Balcony View

View of Granada from the Nasrid Palaces

Entering the Nasrid Palaces

You will enter the Nasrid Palaces according to the time on your timed entry ticket (they take this seriously and will not let you in too early or too late past the entry time stated on your ticket).

The line starts near Puerta del Vino, next to the Palacio de Carlos V courtyard. The official website states that you should get in line 10 minutes before your entry time.

You can also confirm this waiting time with a staff member. Look for staff members standing near Puerta del Vino and ask them how long the wait in line is to enter the Nasrid Palaces. During our visit, they confirmed the wait was about 10 minutes.

We had a 1:00 pm timed entrance. We got in line at 12:25, hoping we could get into the palaces a little early. The line only took 10 minutes and at 12:35, we were told we were too early, so we were told to get back in line. On our second attempt, we were allowed in 6 minutes early.

They will check your passport to enter the Nasrid Palaces.

Once finished the visit, you will exit the Nasrid Palaces near El Partal.

Palacio de Carlos V

This is a large Renaissance-style palace. It is located next to the Nasrid Palaces and near Puerta de la Justicia. The entrance is on the side that faces the Alcazaba.

There are a few things to see inside of this palace (these are all free to enter):

The Alhambra Museum: On display are pieces of Islamic art, including vases, tilework, statues, and columns. It is quick to visit and very interesting…definitely worth 10 to 15 minutes of your time.

Alhambra Museum | How to visit the Alhambra

Alhambra Mosaic Tiles

 

The Atrium: With its circular colonnade, this is well worth a quick visit and a photo or two.

Palacio de Carlos V | How to visit the Alhambra

 

Fine Arts Museum: This art museum contains mostly religious art. You also get to see some rooms of the palace. This is skippable unless you have a lot of interest in religious art. It is located on the second floor of the palace.

Fine Arts Museum

El Partal Gardens & Ladies Tower

These gorgeous gardens, with their water features and manicured landscapes, are located to the east of the Nasrid Palaces. The main feature is the Ladies Tower (Torre de las Damas), also referred to as Partal Palace. These gardens are included on the Alhambra ticket.

El Partal Gardens Alhambra

El Partal Gardens

 

Ladies Tower Torre de las Damas | How to visit the Alhambra

El Partal Gardens Granada

St. Mary of Alhambra Church

This church is located on Calle Real Alta near Palacio de Carlos V. It is free to visit. Here is what it looks like inside:

St Mary of Alhambra Church Interior | How to visit the Alhambra

St Mary of Alhambra Church

St. Mary of Alhambra Church

The Mosque Baths of the Alhambra

This small museum is located next to St. Mary of Alhambra Church and is worth a quick visit to see its Moorish architecture. It is free to visit.

Mosque Baths of the Alhambra

Parador Hotel Gardens & the Palace of the Convent of San Francisco

The Parador de Granada is a hotel located in the Alhambra complex. This was once the Convent of San Francisco. The bodies of Ferdinand and Isabella were buried here and then later moved to the Royal Chapel of Granada.

In front of the hotel is a small, manicured garden. If you walk through the gardens, to the left is an entrance into a small courtyard. Called the La Catolica Courtyard, this was once the nave of the church and the original burial site of Ferdinand and Isabella.

Parador de Granada Gardens

Parador Hotel Gardens

 

Palace of the Convent of San Francisco | How to visit the Alhambra

La Catolica Courtyard

Parador Hotel Café

The Parador Hotel also has an outdoor café with views of the Generalife buildings and gardens. This is a great spot for breakfast, lunch, or to simply take a break from sightseeing. The entrance is to the left of the Parador Hotel Gardens.

Where to Eat at the Alhambra

Jardines de San Francisco

These gardens are located next to the Parador Hotel. Calle Real Alta runs through these gardens, where you will see tall, manicured hedges, rose gardens, and views of ruins around the outer walls of the Alhambra.

The entrance point is at Access in Secano and you will have to show your passport/ticket, as this is also an entry point into Generalife.

Parador Hotel | How to visit the Alhambra

Jardines de San Francisco and the Parador Hotel

 

Jardines de San Francisco

Jardines de San Francisco

Generalife

Generalife was the summer palace for the kings of Granada. It is located to the east of the Nasrid Palaces and Jardines de San Francisco. Again, this is well worth the visit. The views of the Alhambra from the gardens at Generalife are unbeatable.

Generalife is included on a ticket to the Alhambra. There are three places where you can enter Generalife: on Calle Real de la Alhambra near the Parador de Granada hotel, at the entrance into El Partal next to Palacio de Carlos V, and at the Access Pavilion of the Alhambra.

It takes about one hour to visit Generalife, a little less if you move fast. You’ll first stroll through the gardens, then walk through the summer palace. Patio de La Acequia (Court of the Water Channel) and Patio de La Sultana are two beautiful courtyards not to be missed.

Generalife View of the Alhambra

The view from Generalife

 Generalife Gardens | How to visit the Alhambra

Generalife Gardens

 

Patio de La Acequia Generalife

Patio de La Acequia

 Sala Regia Generalife | How to visit the Alhambra

Sala Regia

 

Patio de La Sultana Generalife

Patio de La Sultana at Generalife

 

Generalife Patio and View

Generalife palace patio and view of the Alhambra

How to Get to the Alhambra

The Alhambra is located in Granada. Once in Granada, you can get to the Alhambra on foot, by bus, by car, by taxi, or by tour.

On foot, it is an uphill walk from the city center. It takes 20 to 30 minutes and the final part of the walk (once you pass through Puerta de las Granadas) is quite steep and strenuous.

If you want to avoid this uphill walk, you can hire a taxi or take bus C30.

If you have a car, there is parking at the Alhambra. The parking lots are labeled Parking PARKIA – La Alhambra de Granada and Aparcamiento Vehiculos Pesados on Google Maps.

How to Get Around the Alhambra

To get around the Alhambra, you will do a lot of walking. It’s relatively flat, once you are here. There will be a few hills, but it is nothing like the walk to get here. Just be aware that there will be steps to climb, especially in the Alcazaba and Generalife.

We have an ideal walking route to and from Generalife, that takes you to all of the top sights without backtracking. Be sure to refer to our Alhambra Itinerary (below) for these details.

Map of the Alhambra Sites

There are maps located throughout the Alhambra indicating your location.

How Much Time Do You Need at the Alhambra?

The official website states a visit lasts 3 hours.

We move fairly fast and our visit lasted 4 hours. Our time included a 15-minute coffee break at the Parador Hotel café and extra time waiting to enter the Nasrid Palaces, but for most people, I recommend budgeting about a half day, or a minimum of 4 hours, for the Alhambra.

Alhambra Terrace next to Church

When is the Alhambra Open?

From April 1 to October 14, the Alhambra is open from 8:30 am to 8:00 pm for a day visit. There are also evening hours from 10 pm to 11:30 pm.

From October 15 to March 31, the Alhambra is open from 8:30 am to 6:00 pm for a day visit. There are also evening hours from 10 pm to 11:30 pm.

Get updated hours here.

Best Time of Day to Visit the Alhambra

Mornings and evenings are the least crowded times to visit the Alhambra. We arrived at 9:30 am and the Alhambra complex was still relatively empty. By 10:30 am, it started to feel more crowded and midday there were a lot of people here.

Tickets will include a timed entry for the Nasrid Palaces. All other parts of the Alhambra can be visited before or after this timed entry.

Since the Nasrid Palaces are timed entry, crowd levels are about the same all day. You will have fewer people right after opening and just before closing. We had a 1:00 pm entry into the Nasrid Palaces and they felt busy, but they were not overcrowded. You can get an idea of how crowded the Nasrid Palaces were from our photos above and this photo below. We were pleasantly surprised at how good the crowd control is at the Alhambra and it is important to note that on the day we visited, tickets were 100% sold out.

Court of the Lions | How to visit the Alhambra

Court of the Lions at 1:30 pm

How Much Does it Cost to Visit the Alhambra?

General Tickets: €19.09 per person; all-inclusive ticket: Nasrid Palaces, Alcazaba, and Generalife

Gardens, Generalife, and Alcazaba: €10.61 per person; includes Generalife, El Partal, and the Alcazaba; it does not include the Nasrid Palaces

Night Visit to Nasrid Palaces: €10.61; includes the Nasrid Palaces and Palace of Charles V; it does not include Generalife or the Alcazaba

You can get updated ticket prices on the official website.

How to Buy Alhambra Tickets

Purchase your tickets online from the official website at a minimum of one month in advance, although even sooner is better. Ideally, purchase them 2 to 3 months in advance, to get the time slot that you want.

When purchasing a general ticket, you will also make a timed entry reservation for the Nasrid Palaces. This is your entry time into the Nasrid Palaces. You can visit all other sites in the Alhambra before or after the Nasrid Palaces (for example, you can visit Generalife at 10 am and if you have a 1 pm entry time into the Nasrid Palaces).

Tickets are nominative. When purchasing tickets, you will have to enter the name and passport number for each individual. Your passport essentially becomes your ticket to the Alhambra, and this will be scanned, rather than an actual ticket. So, don’t forget your passport!

If tickets are sold out, check GetYourGuide or take a tour of the Alhambra.

There is also a ticket office at the Alhambra, called the Access Pavilion of the Alhambra. You have a low likelihood of purchasing tickets here as most days of the year tickets are sold out in advance.

PRO TRAVEL TIP: The concierge at our hotel told us that the official website for tickets refreshes at midnight local time. So, if you are trying to purchase tickets at the last minute but they are sold out, then check the official website at midnight to see if any tickets have been released.

Alhambra Door

Visiting the Alhambra: Detailed Itinerary

The order in which you see the various sites within the Alhambra will depend on where you enter the complex, the time you arrive at the complex, and the time of your Nasrid Palace timed entry.

One thing to keep in mind as you organize your day is that the exit for the Nasrid Palaces is at the bottom of the El Partal Gardens. It’s a nice flow to go from the Nasrid Palaces → El Partal Gardens → Generalife.

Below is an itinerary for visiting the Alhambra, starting and ending at Puerta de la Justicia. This visits all of the top places in a very efficient order.

  • Alcazaba (30-45 minutes)
  • Get in line 10 to 15 minutes before your timed entry into the Nasrid Palaces
  • Nasrid Palaces (45-60 minutes)
  • El Partal Gardens (30 minutes)
  • Walk to Generalife via Paseo de las Torres (about 10 minutes)
  • Generalife (45-60 minutes)
  • Jardines de San Francisco and the walkway (15-20 minutes)
  • Parador Hotel Gardens & courtyard (10-15 minutes)
  • Parador Hotel Café or Hotel América Café (30-60 minutes)
  • Bath of the Mosque (5 minutes)
  • St Mary of Alhambra Church (5 minutes)
  • Palacio de Carlos V and the Alhambra Museum (30 minutes)

If you have some extra time between the Alcazaba and the Nasrid Palace, then you can use it to see as much of Palacio de Carlos V and the Alhambra Museum that you have time for.

If you are starting at the Access Pavilion of the Alhambra (for example, if you plan to drive and park at the Alhambra), here is an ideal walking route:

  • Jardines de San Francisco and the walkway (15-20 minutes)
  • Parador Hotel Gardens & courtyard (10-15 minutes)
  • Parador Hotel Café or Hotel América Café (30-60 minutes)
  • Bath of the Mosque (5 minutes)
  • St Mary of Alhambra Church (5 minutes)
  • Palacio de Carlos V (30 minutes)
  • Alcazaba (30-45 minutes)
  • Nasrid Palace (45-60 minutes)
  • El Partal Gardens (30-45 minutes)

Generalife and its gardens (45-60 minutes) would either be at the start or the end of this itinerary.

Court of the Lions Photo

Court of the Lions

Skip the Line Tours of the Alhambra

If tickets are sold out on the official website, you can purchase an entrance ticket on GetYourGuide.

If you prefer an entry ticket plus an audio guide tour, you can also purchase that ticket on GetYourGuide.

This tour of the Alhambra includes your entrance into the Nasrid Palaces plus a guided tour of the Alcazaba and Generalife.

This guided tour also gets very good reviews and includes the Nasrid Palaces, Generalife, and the Alcazaba.

Powered by GetYourGuide

 

Helpful Tips for Visiting the Alhambra

Bring Your Passport

When purchasing tickets, you will have to enter the passport number for each individual. Your passport is your ticket to the Alhambra, and this will be scanned at each entry point, rather than an actual ticket.

So, don’t forget your passport!

You should also bring your tickets, either on your mobile device or printed, as a backup. During our visit, we only showed our passports and did not show our tickets.

Map of the Alhambra

If you want to see an interactive map of the Alhambra, here is the link.

Things You can See without a Ticket to the Alhambra

If you were unable to get a ticket, there are a few things you can still see and do. You can enter the Alhambra through Puerta de la Justicia and walk around the complex of buildings.

Places you can visit without a ticket include Palacio de Carlos V, the Alhambra Museum, and Fine Arts Museum. On Calle Real Alta, you can go inside the St. Mary of Alhambra Church and the Bath of the Mosque. At the Parador de Granada, have lunch on the terrace and enjoy the view of Generalife.

Where to Eat at the Alhambra

The outdoor café at the Parador Hotel is the best place to eat at the Alhambra. There is also a small restaurant at Hotel América, which is on Calle Real near the church and Bath of the Mosque.

Only Small Backpacks are Allowed

Only bags smaller than 40×40 cm are allowed. There are lockers at Puerta del Vino and the Access Pavilion.

Strollers are Not Allowed

Strollers are not allowed inside of the buildings at the Alhambra. They can be stored at the Puerta del Vino locker units.

Toilets

There are bathrooms at the Access Pavilion, at the services pavilion next to Puerta del Vino, and at the Lower Gardens of Generalife. There are also bathrooms at the Parador Hotel café, but you must be a customer here to use these.

Alhambra Archways

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take to visit the Alhambra?

The official website states a visit takes 3 hours and most guided tours also last about 3 hours. However, we spent 4 hours here, and we tend to move fairly quickly. If you plan to visit the three main sites of the Alhambra (the Nasrid Palaces, Generalife, and the Alcazaba) plan on spending 3 to 4 hours here. And don’t forget to purchase your tickets in advance!

Can you just walk around the Alhambra?

It is possible to walk around the Alhambra without a ticket. There are a few museums and historical sites you can enter, such as Palacio de Carlos V and the Bath of the Mosque. However, you will need a ticket to visit the main sites, including the Nasrid Palaces, the Alcazaba, and Generalife.

Is the Alhambra worth it?

The Alhambra is one of the best-preserved historical Islamic palaces in the world. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most popular tourist attractions in Europe that is famous for its Moorish architecture, tile mosaics of colorful geometric patterns, open courtyards, and landscaped gardens. It is one of the most important historical sites to see in Spain and Europe and well worth the visit.


If you have any questions about how to visit the Alhambra, or if you want to share any tips for future readers, let us know in the comment section below.

More Information for Your Trip to Spain

ANDALUSIA: In our guides to Andalusia, Spain, we cover the best things to do in Seville, the best way to spend one day in Seville, a one day itinerary with a walking tour of Ronda, and a guide to the Caminito del Rey, one of the most famous walks in Spain.

BARCELONA: Start with our guide to the best things to do in Barcelona. Plan your visit with our 3 Day Barcelona Itinerary, our guide on Where to Stay in Barcelona, and get recommendations on where to eat in Barcelona.

MADRID: Visit the must-see sights plus a few hidden gems in our article Best Things to Do in Madrid.

TOLEDO: Toledo is the most popular day trip from Madrid. Learn how to plan your visit with our article Best Things to Do in Toledo and How to Plan a Toledo Day Trip from Madrid.

Read all of our articles about Spain in our Spain Travel Guide.

 

Alhambra Granada Spain

 

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